A pet is generally a domestic sidekick, a loyal subordinate, or sometimes even, a guardian. A dog is “man’s best friend” they say, but what happens when your pet outshines you? How would you feel if your furry friend’s Facebook page had more likes than yours? These hypotheticals sound ludicrous, don’t they? As it turns out, they really aren’t.
The rise of social media in the past few years has provided creative pet owners with many accessible platforms and the unlikeliest of animals are becoming Internet sensations. Some animals that don’t even qualify as pets have found Internet fame on their own, simply by acting out in public around smart phone users.
Check your Facebook newsfeed, and you’re likely to find posts about animals who have become movie stars, divas, models, travel guides, or wanted criminals. Animal Planet is even releasing a reality TV series about cats. Anything is possible, it seems.
The following is a collection of this decade’s most impressive animal Internet stars—so prepare to smile, to shake your head, and to indulge your own jealousy with these animals that are more famous than you will ever be.
10. Menswear Dog
Back in 2013, New York designers Yena Kim and David Fung started dressing their pet dog, Bodhi, in couture menswear and instagramming him for fun. To his owners’ delight, Bodhi instantly took to the camera, and his tumblr page, mensweardog.tumblr.com, quickly went viral. Bodhi, a.k.a “Menswear dog,” is not however, just a tumblr sensation, nor is he just a meme to laugh at. He is a real model, who actually poses when photographed, sponsors topnotch fashion brands, and walks the runway at fashion week. In April 2015 Miss Kim and Mr. Fung released a fashion manual for young men entitled “Menswear Dog Presents the New Classics: Fresh Looks for the Modern Man.” The book, now available on Amazon, offers men seasonal fashion advice, for a timeless “classic” look. Now a star, Menswear dog makes on average $15,000 a month from his modelling career, enough for his owners to have quit their jobs. Menswear dog has certainly made an impact in the fashion world, and who knows, he might even catch Tyra’s attention, and end up on Amercia’s Next Top Model: the Canine Cycle.
9. Lil’ Bub
Lil’ Bub, a house cat, was born the runt of her litter. She suffers from a short lower jaw, toothlessness, and several other deformities causing her tongue to stick out permanently. Despite her inauspicious beginnings, recording artist Mike Bridavsky met and adopted Bub. Unbeknownst to them, she would go on to do great things as a multi-media artist. After her picture went viral on Tumblr and Reddit in 2011, Lil’ Bub’s career took off. What really makes this cat unique, what makes her “The most amazing cat on the planet” is her status as a well-rounded feline personality: she has appeared on talk-shows such as Good Morning America, the View and the Today show. Urban outfitters, which successfully retails Lil’ Bub merchandise, hosted a meet-and-greet for Bub at one of their stores in Chicago back in 2013. A conscientious activist too, Bub posed as a spokescat for PETA in a campaign to encourage pet-owners to spay and neuter their animals. Bub was also the star of a documentary, released in 2013, called “Lil’ Bub and Friendz” about cats on the internet, which premiered at the Tribecca film festival and went on to win awards.
8. Ikea Monkey
On December 9th, 2012, small macaque monkey was found roaming an Ikea store in Toronto. The monkey, Darwin, had escaped a crate in his owner’s car. Not only was it surprising for witnesses to spot a wild animal wandering alone in an Ikea, but Darwin was also sporting a small shearling coat and a diaper. Footage of the episode quickly surfaced online, and he became known as “the Ikea Monkey.” One photo in particular, showing Darwin gazing out of the corner of a window, went viral, and became a familiar meme in no time. While the Ikea Monkey incident made Internet users laugh worldwide, it wasn’t so funny for his owner Yasmin Nakhuda, who lost custody of Darwin that day after he was seized by Toronto Animal services. Darwin was back in the spotlight when he was declared a wild animal in an Ontario courtroom, and despite her efforts to appeal and regain ownership, Nakhuda could no longer afford the expense of the lengthy custody battle, and eventually gave up. Darwin now resides in the Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary in Sunderland, Ont.
Another odd Torontonian tale is that of “#DeadraccoonTO,” the raccoon that only gained Internet fame posthumously. This wild raccoon was found dead on the sidewalk of a busy Toronto intersection on a Thursday morning in July. Animal services were notified via twitter, but for some reason, no one came to collect the carcass until much later. In the meantime, the dead raccoon, dramatically sprawled out on its back with its tongue sticking out, caught the attention of passersby. First, someone left a note for the deceased, and gradually, a memorial was crafted for the animal right there on the sidewalk. One person left flowers, another a framed picture of a raccoon, and another a large sign that read “#DeadraccoonTO.” Throughout the day, the memorial grew to comedic proportions, and by nightfall, when Animal Services had failed to show up, a candlelight vigil had taken form. City Councilor Norm Kelly also got involved on twitter, sharing the “#DeadraccoonTO” hashtag, lamenting the dead raccoon and urging the city to allow him some dignity. In the end, the vermin-gone-viral was finally taken away just after 11pm, but his memory will live on through his hilarious hashtag.
6. Grumpy Cat
If you’ve been online at all in the last few years, you probably already know who “Grumpy Cat” is. The cat became an Internet celebrity when her photo first surfaced on Reddit, in 2012. Likely due to an overbite, Tardar Sauce looks into the camera with a disdainful pout, giving her a permanently “grumpy” expression. The Reddit photo became a popular meme with captions such as “There are two kinds of people in this world, and I don’t like them.” At the 2013 Webby awards Grumpy Cat won Buzzfeed’s meme of the year award. But her rise to celebrity didn’t stop there— merchandising the meme turned out to be lucrative. There have been two books released about Grumpy Cat, ‘Grumpy Cat: A Grumpy Book,” and “The Grumpy Guide to Life: Observations by Grumpy Cat”. A Grumpy cat wall calendar has also been created, a video game released, and a Grumpy Cat Christmas movie is in the works, set to debut this November on Lifetime. If Grumpy cat has become an internet icon, it’s because she represents two crucial signifiers of hipster culture in the social media age: cats and cynicism. It’s no surprise then that comedian Aubrey Plaza is lending her voice and her deadpan delivery to the character in the anticipated Grumpy Cat movie.
5. The Tim Horton’s Goat
Back in September 2015, an actual goat, Goliath, was arrested in Martensville, Saskatchewan. Goliath was actually being used by the University of Saskatchewan’s Rodeo team, and mysteriously disappeared from campus. Since goats are known to be companion animals, it is assumed that Goliath did not escape, but rather, was kidnapped temporarily, and dropped off at a nearby Tim Hortons. The trouble started when Goliath refused to leave. Store employees escorted Goliath outside several times, but each time he turned around and walked right back in, persistently standing his ground. Left with no other options, one of the store employees called the police, who arrived ready to set this loitering dissident straight. After they arrested Goliath, the police stated: “He was very unhappy with this, so the members decided to take him home instead of to the holding cells at the detachment.” Thankfully, after a rough day of being kidnapped and then arrested, Goliath was returned to his rightful owners, and the Tim Horton’s employees went back to serving humans.
4. Biddy, the Travelling Hedgehog
Another Instagram superstar, Biddy the hedgehog became famous after his owners, Toni DeWeese and Tom Unterseher, began photographing him on their travels through the Pacific Northwest. Biddy was an expressive character, known to pose for the camera. But what really made the photos remarkable was the fact that Biddy was often portrayed in the foreground of breathtaking vistas. From his home state of Oregon, Biddy travelled to Montana, Wyoming, and Washington, pausing to visit sights of American wilderness as well as the occasional donut shop. His Instagram account, which gathered more than 400,000 followers, contains pictures of Biddy smiling, waving, and even making silly faces before all sorts of backdrops. Fans were heartbroken when the following statement appeared on the Instagram account: “This is a very difficult post to type and it breaks our hearts. Our spiky little guy passed away on Sunday, March 1st. Biddy finally seemed better, then he quickly took a turn for the worst.” He may have lived fast and died young, but Biddy travelled more than your average American does in a lifetime. He lived a full life, and his Instagram account remains as proof.
3. Beast Zuckerberg
Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has an impressive looking dog named “Beast.” Beast is a “puli,” a type of Hungarian sheepdog, with long white cord-like fur. It’s hard to say exactly how Beast got so famous, but his Facebook page, created by Zuckerberg and his wife Pricilla Chan, has more than two million likes. The brief “About Beast” entry on his page is short and sweet and informs fans of his different interests: “I live in Palo Alto with Mark and Cilla” it says, “I like cuddling and herding things.” Yes, Beast is a celebrity, but as his Facebook indicates, he is a family man who likes to keep it real and indulge the small pleasures in life. The pictures of Beast’s little adventures always come with humble captions, like “Enjoying a sunny day in the park” or “ cuddle with mom.” Beast’s rise to fame also has a Boyhood quality to it, as Internet followers have watched him grow from a little puppy into the dog he is today. His Facebook feed often recaps his toddler days with pictures and captions such as: “Throwback to my very first bath.”
2. Boo, the Cutest Dog on the Planet
Boo is a small Pomeranian dog whose short haircut gives him the appearance of a stuffed animal. “My name is Boo. I am a dog. Life is good” was the profound tagline that his owner, Facebook employee Irene Ahn, chose for Boo’s profile in 2010, and a star was born. After singer Ke$ha tweeted a link to Boo’s Facebook page, this cuddly canine really went viral. In the tweet, Ke$ha also jokingly called Boo her “new boyfriend”. Shout-outs from other celebrities multiplied. Boo was called “the cutest dog on the planet” by Khloe Kardashian, and the “ultimate chick magnet” by George Stephanopoulos. Now the subject of four different picture books, Boo has over 17 million likes on Facebook, and stands as the official pet liaison of Virgin America. Boo reached such a high level of celebrity, that a rumor, which suggested that the Pomeranian pooch had died, temporarily devastated the Internet. The hashtag “#RIPBOO” circulated Facebook as fans mourned his supposed death, until an update surfaced on his page allowing everyone a breath of relief: “hi friends!” it read, “I heard the rumors, and I would like all my friends to know that I am happy and kickin’!” Thankfully Boo is still with us, and his Facebook page continues to thrive.
1. Henri, le Chat Noir
Henry the tuxedo cat was renamed “Henri, le chat noir” when he became film student Will Braden’s muse in 2007. When he made “Henri,” his first short film starring the blasé tuxedo cat, Braden was a student at the Seattle Film Institute. In making this film, he was inspired by the somewhat pretentious nature of existential philosophers and French filmmaking in the 1950s. For his cat, he created this French philosopher type character who lounges around the house and indulges in his ennui. “We cannot escape ourselves,” the French voice-over says with the sound of piano music in the background, as Henri looks at his reflection in the mirror. The second installment of the now fully established Henri web series, is called “Paw de deux,” Roger Ebert praised the clip as “the best internet cat video ever made” on twitter, and it actually won the “Golden Kitty award” at the Walker Art Center’s Internet cat video festival (yes, it’s an actual feline film festival). While he is convincing in the role of the tortured thinker, Braden has stated that Henry is actually the most cooperative performer: “I just slide him one way or the other” says Braden, “As long as I give him treats, he’s happy.”
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